Top ten ways hotels try to save money (but shouldn’t)

The hotel industry is in a bit of a slump, and even though we are slowly starting to see some signs of recovery, no hotel will be able to declare that the recession is over just yet. So, it makes sense that hotels have been cutting corners where possible. Sadly, in their quest to save a few bucks, some properties have made the wrong decisions, and cut services or amenities in places that impact guests. Here are my top ten annoyances:

Paid WiFi and Internet access

When it comes to being cheap, Internet access tops my list of annoyances. Nothing grinds my gears more than paying $400 to spend a night in a hotel, then being asked to pay $14 just to access the Internet. I totally understand a hotel trying to earn the expense of Internet access back – but if 100 people a day pay the $14 fee to get online, the hotel will be raking in $42,000 a month, about $41,000 more than a decent business class Internet connection will cost them.

Worst of all, many of the paid Internet services are slow and unreliable – and trying to get a refund for poor service is often very hard as hotels will claim the Internet is provided by a third party.
Wall mounted generic soap dispensers instead of bottles

This is a nasty new trend – instead of those cute little bottles, hotels are now switching to wall mounted soap dispensers. And yes – I understand that this is more “green”, and that all those little bottles usually end up coming home with you anyway, but the dispensers are just tacky and each press only dispenses enough shampoo for a quarter your hair – so you end up having to pump away. But worst of all, you never really know what is in the dispensers as they don’t display any brand or ingredients. You just use it and hope for the best.

[Photo from Flickr/cote]

Mattress topper instead of new mattress

When your mattress at home is worn out, you raid your bank account, and invest in a new mattress. At some hotels, they invest in a cheap mattress topper instead, and delay the investment for a couple of years. I won’t name the property, but I recently spent the night at a very upscale hotel that did just that. The mattress was saggy and dirty, but the $50 topper was supposed to hide this. End result was a bad nights sleep and a mattress topper that kept sliding off the mattress.

TV inputs disabled

There is almost no way to describe how much this one annoys me without swearing. Too many hotels are forcing you to use their overpriced pay per view crap by disabling all the inputs on the TV. This means you have no way to connect your iPod or laptop. In the end, the hotel will lose out, because once I realize this, I’ll never ever spend the night there again. All just so they can hope I spend $14 on a bad movie.

The funny part is that quite a lot of cheaper hotel chains are investing in ways to help make connecting to the TV easier, while others put effort into blocking all access to them. If I know I’ll be in my room for a couple of hours, I’ll often pick a chain that I know won’t prevent me from watching a movie on their TV. Hyatt Place hotels are a good example of a chain that understands the needs of their guests – offering a full panel of external connection.

HD TV but no HD channels / too many promotional channels

What kind of hotel invests in nice HD flat panel TV’s, but doesn’t upgrade their systems to actually allow for HD content? Obviously a cheap hotel. One that doesn’t care that SD TV programming looks horrible on an HD TV.

While on the topic of bad channels – I also dislike hotels where more than 25% of their programming is to promote their various services. Do they really need dedicated channels for the shops, the spa, the fitness center, the restaurants and more?

Minibar with sensors

Sensor equipped minibars are designed for two reasons – to save the hotel a ton of money, and to catch cheaters who remove bottles and refill them with apple juice (or something worse). Problem is, the sensors are designed to charge you any time you so much as sneeze with the fridge door open. Also, on most models, there is no delay timer, so don’t even think about checking the ingredients or branding on a bottle. As soon as you remove it, a computer adds the charge to your bill.

Check-in desk/bar/cafe staff

They call them “hip hotels” or “business class hotels” – I call them a pain in the ass. When I check in to a hotel, I don’t want to wait for the front desk staff to finish baking a pizza – I want to hand them my credit card and receive a room key. I’m all for improving the amenities, but not if it means the front desk staff also have to become wait staff, chef and bartender.

Resort fees

This new moneymaker has been around for some time, but is usually found in Las Vegas. What started as a small surcharge to cover things like local calls and pool access can now become an extra fee worth as much as half your room rate. In Vegas, some properties charge up to $25/night as a “resort fee”. Thankfully, the Harrahs’s Las Vegas properties advertise heavily that they don’t charge these fees, so vote with your wallet and let other properties know that you’d rather waste your money gambling than on resort fees.

Occupancy sensing thermostats

This is another part of the hotel that has fallen victim to the green movement. Occupancy sensing thermostats are horrible. They stop working when they think I left the room – which means they don’t mind raising the temperature in the middle of the night, forcing me to wake up every hour and walk around just to turn the AC on again.

So here you go – next time you run into an Inncom sensor thermostat (the most popular brand), here is the VIP override code to disable the sensor and set the damn thing any way you want (thanks to Flyertalk):

  • While holding down “display”
  • Press “off”, then
  • Press “Up” arrow
  • Release “display” button

No iron, no minibar, no safe, no hair dryer

Iron is available at the front desk. Hair dryer available upon request. All things that save the hotel a ton of money. Instead of buying 200 irons, they just buy ten, and make you beg for one when you need it. Other things that are slowly disappearing from many hotels – the minibar and the in-room safe.

Decisions like this are made by accountants who never stay at a hotel, and think that they have just found the perfect way to cut costs. In reality, they are telling their customers that the hotel is too cheap to provide the amenities guests need.